Osho commune heading for split

The Times of India News Service, June 20, 2000

By Abhay Vaidya

PUNE: A decade after Osho’s death, the Osho commune here is headed towards the worst-ever split, with serious differences cropping up among its senior members.
The on-going conflict, which has been growing worse by the day, is being viewed as an intense power struggle, with one faction of the “Inner Circle” wanting complete and unquestioned command over the fortunes of the commune.

This process, which has already been unleashed by the ruling faction led by the New York-based Swami Prem Jayesh (Canadian-born real estate agent Michael O’Byrne), encompasses the alleged “eviction” of the senior but unwanted elements of the commune and the shifting of the publishing headquarters from Pune to New York.

Trade-marking “Osho”, patenting of Osho meditation techniques and copyrighting of Osho’s books, video and audio tapes, all in the US and Zurich, are also seen as part of this move.

The conflict took a dramatic turn on Tuesday when the commune refused entry to Ma Yoga Neelam, who served as personal secretary to Rajneesh for years.

Neelam, who was associated with Rajneesh for nearly three decades, was once among the most powerful members of the commune. She also belonged to the 21-member “Inner Circle” from which she resigned last year.

Neelam now joins the long list of other senior Oshoites who have been denied entry to the Pune commune.

Ma Neelam told The Times of India News Service that she was denied entry to the commune and advised by the “Inner Circle” member, Swami Satya Vedanta “to take a break and keep away from the commune for a while”.

“The message for you is to take a break for a while. Don’t come to the commune for a while,” Neelam said while recalling her conversation with Satya Vedanta. She said that the ban on her was “for an indefinite period”.

“This is a sophisticated and indirect way of banning me from the commune,” Neelam said.

She said that what hurt her most was being denied access to Osho’s samadhi, which is inside the commune.

“How can they prevent me from going there?” she wondered and said that since the commune was registered as a public charitable trust, Osho disciples may have to approach the government to look into the affairs of the commune.

Neelam accused the three-member ruling group of the commune – Jayesh, Amrito and Anando – with distorting Osho’s message and manipulating the other disciples into having it their own way.

“Osho had clearly instructed that all decisions regarding the commune should be taken collectively by the 21-member Inner Circle. The members of this team could be replaced only in the event of their death. My biggest complaint against Jayesh and the others is that they have not respected Osho’s wish and they have not respected the people Osho chose to lead the commune,” Neelam said.

She said that the dictatorial and arrogant behaviour of the trio, led by Jayesh in the U.S. and Amrito in Pune, “reminds us of the manner in which Ma Sheela controlled Rajneeshpuram in Oregon.”

Ma Sheela, incidentally, is a disgraced former Oshoite who was denounced by Rajneesh for betraying the commune and who was imprisoned in Germany on drug dealing charges.

Neelam said that she was also angry with the commune for using Osho’s samadhi for cathartic meditation during which the people are allowed to scream, shout abuses, blow their nose and do other such things “to cleanse their mind”.

“We feel that Osho’s samadhi should be used like a samadhi and the group therapies should be stopped immediately,” she said.

Neelam said that the entire finances of the commune, running into crores of rupees, were controlled by Jayesh who was based in New York.

In Pune, the “Inner Circle” member and sanyasin Mukesh Sarda was close to Jayesh who served as the managing trustee for the 22 trusts which controlled the commune’s properties in India, Neelam said.

Swami Tathagat, a former “Inner Circle” member now no longer with the commune, said that the goings-on at the commune had agitated a large number of Osho sanyasins in India and abroad.

“The Osho commune is a public charitable trust. It is the master’s place. Everyone is deeply concerned with what is happening here,” he said.

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